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Nov 12 / Jamie Hardesty

Post Match Analysis: West Ham Home

Ex captain Kevin Nolan scored the game’s only goal in a surprise defeat for Newcastle against West Ham at St. James’ Park. The Hammers now have an impressive return of 18 points from 11 games whereas Newcastle currently languish in tenth place with an uninspired 14 points for a club with apparent top 4 ambitions.

Nolan breaks Newcastle hearts

Match Report:

With Demba Ba being passed fit and starting in the Newcastle lineup alongside tricky winger Hatem Ben Arfa, few would have predicted West Ham to shut out their opponents. However a resolute West Ham defensive display kept the Newcastle frontline at bay throughout the game, leaving former Newcastle man Kevin Nolan to poke home a close range winner.

In a match devoid of much quality, especially in the final third, Newcastle did have an outlet in Ben Arfa whose constant forward thinking toiled to make things happen for the Black and Whites. Producing the game’s first moment of real quality in the fifth minute, Ben Arfa created a break only for Tomkins to easily dispossess Papiss Cisse, following a good Shane Fergsuon cross.

The early disjointed nature of Newcastle’s approach play set the tone for the match that ensued. Without Ben Arfa Newcastle would struggle to move the ball in to opposition territory, as the long balls pumped at Cisse from Mike Williamson failed to have their desired effect. Even from so early on in the game, Newcastle were guilty of lacking quality as evident from the lack of passing and desire on show, with players failing to look like forming any sort of cohesive unit.

Cisse’s decision making and partnership upfront alongside Demba Ba must be scrutinised as both strikers did the other a disservice, hampering one another’s performance. A clear lack of understanding was present, with neither being able to spot the other’s runs or looking to play each other forward. A 30 yard Cisse strike way off the mark, following a pass from Gutierrez, showed how much Newcastle’s attack was bereft of communication or ideas.

When Kevin Nolan’s 38th minute poaching effort found the back of Tim Krul’s goal, following a skewed shot, the goal seemed to come from nowhere in a game of tough viewing for the supporter.  Newcastle were punished for a lethargic display and as the home side in a much winnable game questions must be raised about what can only be described as a non-performance.

Indeed, following conceding the goal, Newcastle showed more fight notably through Davide Santon striving to get forward to help the team effort and Ben Arfa in attempting to create space for an opening. However Newcastle were punished for an uninspired display. Pardew replaced Cisse with Shola Ameobi at half time, although ultimately Newcastle’s fate was sealed on an afternoon that will have left fans wondering what has happened to the side that finished fifth in the Premier League last season.

Newcastle’s best chance of the game came from a Demba Ba header which looked close to being over the line, although veteran goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen looked to have done just enough to keep the ball out. The remainder of Newcastle approach came from toiled dribbles from Ben Arfa and the marauding Santon, although lacking any penetration the likes of Cabaye were forced to shoot from too far out.

Most alarmingly, Newcastle’s midfield failed to connect with the forwards and will be hoping next week’s return of Cheick Tiote will reverse current fortunes.  With Demba Ba dropping deeper as the game went on to receive the ball, it was a clear indication of little to no service on a frustrating afternoon. Newcastle fans can only hope Tiote’s return allows Cabaye the time and space in the team to connect with his strikers, who were in dire need of support throughout.

Newcastle pressed throughout the second half although West Ham can be credited with shutting the Magpies out. Newcastle struggled to find an equaliser but showed no real quality or conviction in a dour game which will not be remembered. Tim Krul was equal to an Andy Carroll effort and apart from the Nolan goal, West Ham failed to truly threaten and simply concentrated on soaking up the Newcastle pressure.

Devoid of ideas and quality, Newcastle saw much of the ball though to little reward. Pardew’s side will now have to produce a positive display, full of intensity and commitment against Swansea at home next weekend to redeem themselves for a poor day in a match many expected them to take all three points.

Negatives:

What a miserable day. Newcastle had no fluidity and at times looked like a team of strangers.

We didn’t seem to know how to approach the game or how to score a goal. We tried long balls from Simpson and Williamson which were woeful, Ben Arfa tried to cut through too many players and Ba kept coming too deep for the ball.

The real problem seemed to be in the heart of midfield. I think we missed Tiote. We need Cabaye in a three man midfield with Tiote and Anita doing the hard work, toiling away at the game’s ugly side. This isn’t for Cabaye to do, we need to focus his energies on connecting with the forwards and Ben Arfa to create some chances and attacks. Instead Cabaye today had too much to do in the middle and we lacked any bite in midfield. I felt sorry for Yohan.

For Carroll to almost score and Nolan to get on the scoresheet it was painful viewing. We have been poor all season and maybe a result like this was coming. We’re yet to win away in the league and we have scored too few goals at home. Problems need addressing and something has to give. We need a change.

If Pardew has to drop Cisse then so be it. If he has to sit down and talk with Ba and ask him to go out left again, even if it upsets him – so be it. If Jonas is no longer our left winger, then so be it. But something, something must differ.

Positives:

Santon was a plus, he has been our most consistent player and again looked like a flourishing Premier League left back, defending well but aiming to help the attack where possible.

We controlled the game in the second half, although we were the side 1-0 down. On another day this could have been us playing badly but being the side winning 1-0, we’ve seen it so many times before for Newcastle in the past 18 months or so.

Krul’s save against Carroll however was the biggest positive for me, so what does that tell you?

Luckily Carroll failed to compile misery on Newcastle

A game to forget.

Player Ratings:

Having watched such a display, abject of desire and cohesion to strike passes together or play positive balls in dangerous areas and suffering so many unproductive long balls, I’d rather not rate the players. It was a below average display. Santon was our best player. Krul couldn’t help the goal and I wouldn’t say the defenders exactly had a shocker. But as cliché as this may sound, there was just a distinct lack of spark from Newcastle United. Without Ben Arfa where would we be? He and Fergue worked so hard to create chances but it wasn’t out day. Upfront we are a worry and currently our cup side looks far more free flowing than our supposed best 11. Swansea is huge for us now. I can’t hide my disappointment.

Talking Points:

  1. Ex players: Carroll and Nolan. Both had an influence on the game and ultimately ‘won’ this one. They’re good assets to West Ham who look certain to survive their return to the PL.
  2. Cisse/Ba. It’s still not working and nor has it ever worked. They go for the same balls, don’t help eachother and have no understanding. Surely Pardew must know this?
  3. Pardew himself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big AP fan but now the onus is firmly on him to change things up and impress us. That result had been coming.

Final Note:

Ok, we were poor and at times indefensible for a display lacking the requirements of a Newcastle United home performance. However we’ll take it on the chin and I’m sure Pardew will be desperate to bounce back. Although Swansea may be a better side than West Ham we are certainly capable of the win and it’s now a time to get behind the team.

Hopefully the imminent return of Tiote will galvanise the Newcastle midfield

Win together, lose together and far too early to panic. United.

…And remember no matter how bad things seem, it could be worse; we could be Sunderland.

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